Often overlooked, sometimes ridiculed, and indeed known as "the other Chicago team," the team on the South side is playing firmly behind the shadow of their superiors and World Champions, the Chicago Cubs. The Chicago White Sox enter the 2017 season with a new manager (Robin Ventura resigned), lots of youth, a stable of pitching prospects, and more importantly the "r" word.
Adam Laroche, Chris Sale, and the drama that ensued last season didn't help the mood in the clubhouse smooth over any better in 2016. But 2017 is a fresh start for the guys in black, the front office promoted bench manager Rick Renteria to take over for Ventura, a move which seems to be well-received.
Drama in 2016 saw Laroche leave and ace Chris Sale moved to Boston during the winter meetings, along with Adam Eaton traded to the Washington Nationals.Fourth in their division, the Sox went (78-84) a season ago and will be lucky to get a whiff of any substantial postseason discussion this year. Although times are rough in Chicago, there is more than enough to look forward to in the years to come and a decent amount to work on in 2017.
The White Sox have been well represented historically with big power in their lineup over the years. The days of Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez, Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and even pot-stirrer Adam Laroche may be gone, but this squad does a decent job in its own right. The source of power in this lineup starts with third baseman and leader in home runs(40) Todd Frazier. Not far behind Frazier will be a supporting cast made up of Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu. The former led the Sox in batting average (.293) and the latter went through a slump early in the season in 2016, but Abreu would go on to hit (25) HRs while knocking in (100) RBIs.
Abreu's stats were good, actually more than good, but these numbers were down from his previous two seasons with at least 30. Per Scot Gregor of The Chicago Tribune, Abreu is eager to make amends for 2016 and finish where he left off.
"Everybody knows that at the beginning of last season, I wasn't performing good. It was kind of a surprise for me, too. But I'm in good shape right now and I believe I will be able to carry the end of last season into this season."
With Chris Sale now in Boston, and the throwback jerseys safe again, the ace of the South side is now Jose Quintana. Quintana was mentioned in trade talks in 2016, again during winter meetings, and most likely will remain trade bait in 2017 without skipping a beat. Quintana went (13-12) a season ago, pitched over 200 innings and accumulated (7.8) strikeouts per nine innings. Going deep into rebuild mode, the White Sox could center the future around Quintana who has averaged a (3.41) ERA in five years with the Sox. The talent Quintana represents a high ceiling, big money in future earnings, but it still remains that the White Sox asking price has yet to be met.
Carlos Rodon will hope to bounce back from two years of glimpses of greatness combined with failed expectations. Another young arm on the staff, Rodon must come into his own in year three to be the southpaw in the rotation to pick up slack associated with the trade of Sale, not to mention if Quintana gets moved, Rodon would be the new ace on staff. The Bullpen is headlined by closer David Robertson who capitalized on (37) saves in 2016 while making 44 appearances. Also heavily mentioned in trade talks and at age 31, don't be surprised if Robertson is moved to a club looking for a closer to solidify their playoff chances.
Pitching is plentiful in Chicago, the Sox have young arms and assets on the books that will yield more talent to come their way. Guys like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, and Reynaldo Lopez are prospects to watch in the spring, along with hurler Giovanni Soto.
Looking back to last season, the Sox ranked (4th) when it came to innings pitched, (2nd) in complete games and (6th) in ERA at (4.10). There's reasonable discussion to be had about run support, and possibility of adjusting the final spots in the rotation instead of the staff as a whole. With the cupboard full of prospects, and the potential of more if a Quintana trade occurs, Pitching Coach Don Cooper has a lot on his plate, but more to smile about than most in the MLB.
Chicago's 2016 defense was mediocre at best, no other way you can look at it, and in most major statistical categories, not much will change this season. With no Adam Eaton and an already banged up Charles Tilson in spring training, the defense is primed and ready to dip exponentially in 2017.
A year ago, Rick Renteria's ball club was (15th) in the MLB in fielding percentage, (16th) in total errors, and (20th) in assists. Average statistics not so much thought about in 2016, but the kind of average statistics Sox fans and management might be yearning for as the season goes along, but I have a feeling they'll be much lower, like try bottom of the league and dead last.
Intriguing will be Avisail Garcia returning back to right field after a full-time stint at DH in 2016. Todd Frazier and Jose Abreu on the corners provide exceptional leadership in crunch time positioning, but Frazier will be moved by the trade deadline, so take that for what it's worth. Utility man Tyler Saladino will be a solid replacement if Frazier is moved and a possible candidate to pair up the middle with Brett Lawrie from time-to-time.
April 3rd, Chicago kicks off Opening Day in Detroit as they take on the Tigers for a three game series. It will be a long season for fans of the White Sox, no playoffs for the South side and fan favorites will be shipped out left and right in 2017. It's gonna suck, they're gonna lose bad and lose a lot. I caution you to look to the future and forget the present . . . at least for the next 4 years.